Hawaiian volcano erupts for the first time since 1984: Are flights affected?

In this aerial photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mauna Loa volcano is seen erupting from vents on the Northeast Rift Zone on the Big Island of Hawaii, Monday.
In this aerial photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mauna Loa volcano is seen erupting from vents on the Northeast Rift Zone on the Big Island of Hawaii, Monday.   -   Copyright  AP/AP
By Rebecca Ann Hughes

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano is erupting for the first time in nearly 40 years.

The volcano, which is the largest active in the world, last erupted in 1984.

The volcanic activity means some flights have been cancelled or delayed.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to the island.

Mauna Loa eruption: What do we know so far?

Activity in the Mauna Loa caldera has been building for weeks. The volcano, which is around 4 kilometres tall, began erupting at 11.30pm local time on November 27.

The 5,000 square kilometre volcano is situated inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Currently, there is only activity at the summit area, but authorities have warned that the situation could escalate quickly.

Down the sides of the volcano, there are two areas vulnerable to cracking known as rift zones.

Here, quick-moving lava can escape from a split in the surface and rush down towards settlements below.

Officials have said that residents may need to evacuate the surrounding area and should be prepared to leave at short notice.

The volcano’s most serious eruption was in 1950 when a wave of lava destroyed houses and roads in the coastal town of Hoʻōpūloa.

Are flights affected by the Hawaii volcano eruption?

Travellers due to fly to the island of Hawaii may be concerned about cancellations or delays.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has said there is currently no need to change travel plans.

Hawaii Island's two main airports, Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole and Hilo International Airport, are open as usual.

However, some flights to and from the island have been affected.

On Monday, Southwest Airlines cancelled all services from the airport in Hilo, affecting around 10 flights between the island and Honolulu.

“Passengers with flights to Hilo International Airport or the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole should check with their airline prior to heading to the airport,” an advisory by the state Transportation Department said.

Can you still visit Hawaii during the eruption?

Currently, the lava flows are not threatening any settlements around the volcano so it is safe to travel there.

Most tourist attractions on the island remain open, except some areas of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

However, authorities advise visitors to check updates from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and contact their accommodation for up-to-date information.